A Trip To the Surprise Place
The Surprise Place
My father had a weird sense of humor. Things that he found funny as a parent, sometimes seemed very awkward to me, if not a little demented. I now look back and am thankful of that sense of humor because it gives me so many great memories of him. He was a very good father and a kind, loving husband. He believed fully in spare the rod, spoil the child, but he never over used it. This following part of my life took place in the fall of 1989.
I was four years old at the time. My parents were enrolling me into a private school kindergarten. This was going to be my first taste of the real world.
When my sister and I were growing up, we didn't get everything we wanted like a lot of other kids we knew. We usually had to work for what we got or wait until our birthday of holiday to get a gift of any kind. Bringing home a report card full of A's was not a guarantee that we would get any special reward. The few times that we were given a choice of what we would like to do, we would simply state that we wanted to go to "The Movie Store". What we called a movie store was actually only a VHS rental business about seven miles from our house. My sister loved movies and I loved Nintendo games. I probably rented and played every game they had in there throughout the years, which couldn't have been more than twenty-five games. Still, I loved to go to the movie store and rent each one over and over as many times as I could. Looking back, it seems like my parents would have saved more money by just buying me the game, but I guess it was a form of incentive for them. Either way, this movie store came to be known to us as "The Surprise Place".
As I said before, my father was a very kind person. He always loved to see his kids happy. Sometimes we would get to go to the movie store directly after my sister got out of school even if we had done nothing special. I think he must have had a good day when he decided to take us on those occasions. I can remember hopping up into that old red Ford pick-up truck, sitting in the middle seat, turning on the radio, and hearing good old music from the 60's and 70's. He would reach over to turn the volume down and say, "What do y'all want to do today kids?" Of course we didn't care. We were with our Dad and that's all that really mattered to us. He would then say "Well, how about we go to the surprise place?". Immediately, we would start yelling like a pack of hoodlums. I don't think anything could match the joy we felt at those times. I just wish I still got that excited about renting a movie. And that is how the Surprise Place came to be, but this story takes a turn for the worse, in my experience anyway.
On one particular August morning, my father woke us up, and after we ate breakfast, told us to load up in the truck. We thought we were going to town as usual. School was out, so there was no telling where we would go. As we got about a mile down the road, he said "Who wants to go to the surprise place." Once again, we were won over immediately. This was a strong weapon of his prior to that day. It seemed like if he ever wanted us to act like good little children those are the only words that had to come out of his mouth. If we were fighting with each other, we automatically became the most loving brother and sister you had ever seen. As we rode through town, we both saw that we were passing the Surprise Place. With confused looks on our face, we asked him where he was going. "Oh not that Surprise Place. There's a new place for today," he said. This only made us even more excited. What could be better than the Movie Store, we thought. So many things were running through our mind. Maybe we would go to the arcade, or dare I say, the Zoo.
My extreme exaggerations were wrong, as we pulled into a building directly behind the local grocery store. Neither one of us had ever been in here before. What could this place be? As we walked through the doorway, both of us could tell that this was some sort of medical center. However, we didn't worry because we both knew we weren't sick, so no harm could possibly come to us, right? My sister and I were playing with the little vision test cup and chart, for those of you who can remember what those were, when my father grabbed me by the hand and told me to come with him. I still had no fear at this moment, holding to the fact that I was not sick, so nothing could happen to me. As we walked through the door of the room, the nurse asked me to hop up onto the seat. At this moment my mind started wandering. I could feel tears building up, but I was going to hold back until I was absolutely certain they were warranted. The necessary time came about thirty seconds later as I saw her with a needle that seemed as long as the Eiffel Tower. When you're a kid, it always seems like the nurse has a sinister look on her face right before they stick that needle in. This particular shot was given in the top portion of my thighs for some reason. As I can remember, the shots hurt terribly. I did, however, make it through the shot and was given a nice spider-man band-aid and a sucker, only to find out that I had to get another shot in the opposite leg. Talk about playing with a kid's emotions. The second one hurt even worse if you can believe that. I can remember leaving out of that doctor's office crying my eyes out and resenting my dad for doing such a thing to me. I had my little sucker, but it wasn't making things better. I was deceived by my father. We hadn't went to the Surprise Place at all.
After leaving the "new" Surprise Place, we went to visit my mother at the bank where she worked. When she saw tears rolling out of my eyes and the two band-aids on my thighs her eyes nearly came to tears as well. My dad had told her about what he did and I can remember her seeming frustrated at him. He was just laughing though and I couldn't understand why. After we left my mother, he then said "OK, who wants to go to the Surprise Place now?" Needless to say, neither of us answered yes, but rather sat there, frightened for our lives. Of course, this made him laugh even more. He then drove up to the Movie Rental Store and told us to go get ourselves two movies each. Even though I was in excruciating pain, barely able to walk (I'm being sarcastic), I managed to hobble in and pick out my two rentals. After procuring two video game rentals, I was miraculously feeling better and had forgotten all about the shots before we even reached our driveway. It's funny how a simple video game can make a kid forget about anything.
Later my father told me that I was going to have to get the shots either way. I didn't understand why he deceived my simple mind at the time, but as I grew older it was obvious - this was the easiest way to limit the imminent squalling and pleading I would have done all the way to town. He knew he was going to have to deal with me crying after the shot, but knew he would be able to silence me with a movie, so the only thing he needed was a distraction of where we were going. To some, this may seem like a cruel thing, but it has provided me with a great memory of my father that I have been able to remember vividly for over 25 years. Sometimes even bad memories are good memories.
© 2010 Jesse James